The Ultimate Smartwatches Review by Wearable Technologies
Though it is already the second wave of smartwatches this product type is still at an early market stage. Especially when looking at their role in the wearables consumer market in 2013 and compared to the current success of activity trackers. However, there are many smartwatches available right now which in some cases even can replace activity trackers or offer other additional features for gadget enthusiasts. The products available show there are many approaches to produce smarter watches by enhancing them with software features. Find out what the market has to offer and whether the right fit for you already exists in our smartwatch overview:
Pebble was a big hit on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, raising more than 10 million USD. The smartwatch is equipped with a 1,26“, 144*168 pixels e-ink display that only displays grey scales and has a low energy consumption leading to a battery life of up to 7days. The e-ink display comes with good readability even in sunlight and constantly displays time or other information even in standby. This is one of the biggest advantages over LCD display based smartwatches, whose displays have poor readability once their background lights turn dark in standby mode in order to save energy. Pebble offers a huge number of watch faces and apps for download in its App store, and is one of the few advanced smart watches fully compatible with Android and iOS. It displays mails, notifications, the incoming caller ID and has some fitness apps for runners and cyclists available. With its recent software update, Pebble got improved smartphone integration via Bluetooth 4.0, allowing for a much better user experience and optimizing alerts to your needs.
Pebble Steel was one of the top gadgets presented at CES 2014 in Las Vegas. Based on the original Pebble technology , all Pebble apps are compatible with the new premium watch. The Steel is available in brushed stainless steel and black matte finish. Both versions come with an additional leather wristband. Unlike the original Pebble, the Steel features a scratch resistant Corning Gorilla Glass and a new tricolor LED for status indication. With its beautiful design, Pebble offers a great piece of hardware at a price of $249.
With the Galaxy Gear, Samsung introduced a smartwatch exceeding the technological features of most of its competitors. The display has a resolution of 320*320 pixels and is one of the sharpest you will find in a smartwatch. But this also means that the display is consuming a lot of energy and therefore switches off completely when the watch is in standby mode. Integrated into the wristband is a 1.9 megapixel camera, allowing the user to take pictures and videos that can then be watched on Samsung smartphones and tablets. A speakerphone in the closing of the wristband also allows making calls directly from the wrist. Since the Galaxy Gear needs a smartphone to connect to the mobile network, calls and all other web based features work only when the watch is paired with a smartphone. Several well-known companies – such as Evernote and Pocket – have released their apps for the Galaxy Gear. Currently the smartwatch is only compatible with selected Samsung smartphones such as the Note, the Galaxy S3 and S4. More models will probably be added in the future.
Sony SmartWatch 2
Sony already released the second generation of their SmartWatch. The device with an1,6“ screen and a resolution of 220×176 pixels has built-in Bluetooth and NFC for easy and fast connection to Android smartphones. It can display incoming calls, emails and messages. Several hundred apps are available for Sony’s SmartWatch, but big web companies as the ones mentioned for the Galaxy Gear are not on board yet. The SmartWatch 2 is water resistant, has a battery life of 3-4 days, and can be used with replacement wristbands to tweak the wearer’s style. In contrast to other solutions Sony’s smartwatch works exclusively as a second screen for data generated with the smartphone. Even the pedometer app relies on the phone’s sensor and cannot count steps without it. The SmartWatch 2 is compatible with smartphones based on Android 4.0 or higher, iOS is not supported so far.
Another smartwatch pioneer who also made its debut on Kickstarter is the MetaWatch. Currently offering two different models – the Strata and the Frame. MetaWatch focusses on battery life and usability: Both models are waterproof, and their battery lasts for up to 7 days. The watch comes with 6 hardware buttons making it easy to check the status, control music or run through customizable screens. The watches connect with iOS and Android devices via Bluetooth 4.0. With 96*96 pixels, the display somewhat falls behind the competition in terms of resolution but focusses on good readably in sunlight. The MetaWatch is available from $179.
While the other smartwatches by MetaWatch have set their focus on the practical aspects, the company has released a new brand called Meta to address fashion focussed customers. Meta’s first model was designed by Frank Nuovo who has been responsible for products by Nokia and the luxury mobile phone brand Vertu. The new Meta models come in many different colors and material styles such as plastic, stainless steel and aluminum and feature a 126 x 126 pixel LCD display. These new models will be available this spring at vendors such as Best Buy. The price has not been announced yet.
Martian has a range of analog watches that come with a small screen for notifications and an integrated speakerphone for calls and voice commands. With their solid metal housing and croc leather wristbands the watches are not only an option for tech fans but also for fashionistas. Its small display, only 96×16 pixels, is not able to run apps but provides information about incoming caller ID, text messages, social media notifications, and other alerts. With the integrated microphone and speaker you can record voice messages, make calls from the wrist and perform other voice commands. The analog clock runs for up to two years on one battery. The smart features rely on a separate, rechargeable battery that lasts for up to one week, depending on usage. Martian watches are compatible with iOS and Android smartphones, voice to text functionality works only works with newer models.
Cogito is the latest development by ConnectedDevices, maker of the Cookoo watch. The new versions Cogito Original and Cogito Pop are analog watches that connect to the iPhone, showing notifications for incoming calls, messages etc. on a LCD screen embedded in the watch face. The design makes it rather a watch with an enhanced notification system than a new computing platform for apps but results in a long battery life. In a normal use case scenario the Cogito runs for over one year on an easily replaceable coin cell. Control buttons can be configured to trigger the smartphone camera, perform location based check-in and other actions. The Cogito watch is compatible with iOS devices with Bluetooth 4.0 such as the iPhone 4s and higher.
The i‘m Watch is one of the first smartwatches based on Android, with built-in Bluetooth to connect to the smartphone. It comes with a 240×240 pixels 1,54“ screen and a nice Italian design in various colors and materials. Phone calls can be made directly from the wrist with an integrated speaker and a microphone. Additionally a 3.5mm headphone jack can be used to listen to music. i‘m Watch displays emails, texts and notifications and offers an app store for native i’m watch apps. The Italian smartwatch is available from $349.
With its integrated mobile network connection the Neptune Pine is able to fully replace a smartphone. It‘s gigantic 2.4“ display might not fit on small wrists but allows the watch to run all kinds of Android apps. The screen can display a full QWERTY keyboard for quick text input. Alternatively voice commands can be used to control the watch. The Pine module can be easily released from the wristband for two-handed operation and includes a front and a rear facing camera with 5 megapixels (front camera VGA). Fitness apps working with the integrated GPS or pedometer make it a great device for fitness enthusiasts. With the powerful dual core processor, integrated Google Now and all other smart capabilities of the Pine you will never miss a thing when leaving your smartphone at home.
Meteor from Kreyos is a feature-rich smartwatch with a mid-sized LCD screen and advanced interaction capabilities. Incoming calls, music playback and more can be controlled via hand gestures with the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope. Microphone and speaker of the watch can be used for voice control and phone calls directly from the wrist. Being the only waterproof smartwatch with speakerphone Kreyos is a great option for fitness enthusiasts interested in features like the pedometer app or the ANT+ connectivity which allows to combine it with additional sports gear. Kreyos is currently available for pre-order and will be compatible with iOS, Android and Windows mobile.
Toq is the first smartwatch built with Qualcomm’s Mirasol(TM) reflective display which uses the natural light, unlike a backlit LCD or OLED display. Similar to an e-ink display, the Mirasol display is always on, can be read in sunlight and lasts for several days on a single charge. The Toq connects with smartphones via Bluetooth, has a wireless charger and can be combined with an optional wireless Bluetooth headset. The Toq comes with a range of applications such as calendar, notifications and music control. An open platform for developers has not been announced yet. With a price tag of $349 the Toq is one of the more expensive smartwatches.
The Crossbow represents the Swiss way of building smartwatches. Its housing is made of titanium and equipped with advanced electronics such as a 41 megapixel camera with optical zoom, a 9 axis accelerometer, GPS, an altimeter, and a hygrometer. Bluetooth, NFC, thermometer, magnetometer, and a HD microphone are also included in the watch. While this package will definitely consume some energy, the analog watch’s hands work with automatic movements. The watch face is made of a 160 dpi color display and a diameter of 40mm. Currently a limited production of 500 units can be pre-ordered for $1,200. Shipment is planned for Q1 2014.
Omate True Smart
Omate is another company that believes a smartwatch should be able to fully replace the smartphone. That’s why Omate calls the TrueSmart the world’s smallest wearable smartphone and has built a powerful dual core processor into its watch. TrueSmart offers a 1.54” display with 240×240 pixels, GPS, a 5 megapixels camera, speaker, microphone, and its memory is expandable through a microSD card. With Android 4.2 you have full access to Google Play Store. Packed with all this technology the Omate can either be used as a standalone device or as a companion to your smartphone. A water resistant housing and a scratch proof sapphire crystal glass make the TrueSmart a tough watch for tech enthusiasts. The smartwatch received more than one million $ from its crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter. The pre-order price for Omate’s smart watch starts from $249.
And of course the rumors…
Apple and Google are also expected to get into the new product category at some point in 2014. Apple’s regularly hires new staff with profound expertise from the fashion industry and in health and biosensors which presumably indicates that the company prepares to launch something innovative in the wearables field. Google already acquired WIMM Labs – a pioneer smartwatch company – just after Wimm had launched its first product as a testing platform for developers. We are thrilled to find out what solution the tech giants might be adding to the smartwatch segment and which approach will proof successful in the wearable market in the end.